Rahsaan: The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk

by: Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Rahsaan Roland Kirk's nearly one-dozen long-players on the Mercury Records family of labels -- including the Smash and Limelight subsidiaries -- are gathered on this massive ten-disc compilation. Actually, it is 11 discs if you count the surprise bonus CD. Additionally, Rahsaan: The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk lives up to its name by augmenting those albums with more than two-dozen previously unissued sides. Kirk's thoroughly innovative multi-instrumental reed work caught the attention of legendary producer Quincy Jones, then the vice-president of Mercury Records, who signed Kirk and would later arrange and conduct orchestrations for several of his memorable sessions. Perhaps the most recognizable among them is "Soul Bossa Nova" which is heavily featured in the Austin Powers franchise. Kirk's ability to perform several reed instruments -- including the tenor, flute, clarinet, manzello, and stritch -- simultaneously allowed him a musical autonomy few instrumentalists are afforded. His youthful embrace of the R&B, soul, pop, and eventually rock genres produced swinging interpretations of "And I Love Her" and "Walk on By," among others. Regardless of the genre, however, Kirk's ability to Swing -- with a capitol "S" -- is imprinted upon every piece he performed. Although Kirk continued his prolific output on Atlantic records in the late '60s and '70s, arguably his most profound sides are included here. We Free Kings, Domino, Reeds and Deeds, Gifts and Messages, I Talk with the Spirits and Rip, Rig & Panic are offered in their entirety. Undoubtedly the centerpiece of Kirk's work for the label is the live Kirk in Copenhagen, which features some wicked harp blowing from blues legend "Sonny Boy" Williamson, aka Big Skol. It is only fitting that this album benefits so greatly from inclusion on this set. The original six sides have been supplemented with an additional ten to present the entire October '63 performance, now complete at an hour and 45 minutes. Rahsaan: The Complete Mercury Recordings if Roland Kirk is complimented visually with a 56-page information packed booklet that includes: complete discographical and recording session logs, as well individual essays for each disc. Although not for the light of funds, this is truly the best way to become immersed in these early works of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. ~ Lindsay Planer

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